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Volume 24 No. 158
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     The Game 7 showdowns between the Rockets and Suns and the
Knicks and Pacers last weekend pushed NBC's cumulative playoff
average to its highest mark in 18 years.  Through four weekends
and 16 telecasts, NBC has a national average of a 7.2/20 -- the
highest rating after the initial four weekends since CBS posted
an 8.1/29 in '77 (NBC Sports).  Despite the losses of the Knicks
(No. 1 media market), the Lakers (No. 2) and the Bulls (No. 3),
NBC's "research department believes the 13 percent increase so
far over last year's playoffs will be maintained, perhaps even
surpassed."  NBC Sports' Ed Markey:  "By now, everyone knows
these teams and who plays on them" (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON
POST, 5/26).  The NBA playoffs have pushed TNT to No. 1 in the
prime-time basic cable ratings.  Last week, TNT had five of the
top ten highest rated cable shows -- all NBA broadcasts.  TNT has
averaged a 3.9 cable rating, up 30% from '94, while TBS has
averaged a 2.8, a 65% increase over '94 (Turner).
     FOR NHL -- FOX IS UP, ESPN IS DOWN:  In L.A., Larry Stewart
notes that while the "NBA is booming," the NHL on Fox only
received a 1.9 national rating last Sunday.  That included a 1.2
in L.A., which was topped by a Jimmy Connors-John McEnroe match
(L.A. TIMES, 5/26).  ESPN's NHL ratings are down 10% to a 0.9
average (USA TODAY, 5/26).